SBX 13: How To Create An Operations Manual For Your Business

How To Create An Operations Manual For Your Business

Until you put things down on paper, you’ll never really understand your business.  That goes with creating goals, marketing plans and everyday business processes in your business.  An operations manual is an ever evolving document that serves as a reference manual for you and your employees and helps to keep your high standards consistent across everyone on your team.

Creating an operations manual isn’t hard, though the idea of it sounds daunting.  Most people think of a telephone book sized document filled with mind-numbingly boring stuff.  While it’s no Shakespeare, it’ll help you run and grow your business and help you scale your business beyond what you can do alone as a business owner.

For some businesses, an operations manual may be just a half dozen “how to” pages that outline what’s supposed to be done in certain situations.  For others, like in franchising, it serves as a business roadmap where even a novice business person can hit the ground running and start turning the wheel faster and faster instead of trying to invent it.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • Why putting your systems and processes are so important if you want to grow and scale your business
  • Where to start when it comes to creating an operations manual for your business
  • Some good resources to help you create an operations manual
  • How an operations manual is like a diet plan and why Gary’s daughters call him “Muffin Top”
  • How franchises use a written operations manual to scale their business even with non-business savvy franchisees
  • How an operations manual becomes so important (and valuable) when it comes time to sell your business
  • People tend to think “cookie cutter” when they think of an operations manual.  We discuss why it’s the opposite..

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Map out your business by writing it out.  Until you put things down on paper, you’ll never really understand your business.  The success of your business shouldn’t live up inside your head, it should be freely available to both you and your employees.  How can your employees deliver success (as you see it) if they can’t read your mind?  By putting those wonderful ideas on paper.  If you do something well, document it for the future!
  2. Create consistency in your business.  You do one way and your employees each do things a different way.  Consistency in doing all of the little things right is more important than occasionally “Wowing” them every once in awhile. Just like in basketball, layups win the game.  A documented system for key processes in your business will help you and your team stay on the same page when it comes to doing things the way they’re supposed to be done.  Plus, it’ll keep your employees from calling you during dinner because they forgot how to close out the credit card machine….ugh!
  3. Build a tangible business asset.  When the time finally comes to sell your business, nobody is going to want to buy the ideas in your head.  If you run your entire business from inside your head, selling your business for what it’s really worth will become difficult.  An operating manual with a systems and processes demonstrates that others can continue with the success you currently have.  An operations manual becomes a tangible and very valuable asset when it comes to valuating your business.


Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. Screen Steps.  Great tool if you’ll be doing some serious process creating.
  2. How To Create an Operations Manual blog post.  One of my most popular articles.
  3. Screen shots and screen recording.  Free and easy to use.
  4. Google Sites.  Part of Gmail and Google Apps.  Easiest way to set up an intranet for your business and to house an online version of your operations manual.


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8 replies
  1. Ed Kogan
    Ed Kogan says:

    Guys this podcast and each of your blogs are fantastic. I found them looking for something to listen to on my way to work. You can only listen to so much political and sports talk.

    I have over 30 years experience in retail management. I find myself now working in a meaningless job as a sales merchandiser. I started a blog in hopes of one day becoming a consultant to mom and pop stores who want to grow.

    your sites are just what I need to get my self going.


    Ed Kogan
    my blog

  2. Mike Monroe
    Mike Monroe says:

    AWESOME, Ed! Thank you for the kind words. Now that the Patriots are done for the season and the Celtics are in full rebuilding mode, I *too* find myself reading a lot more and browsing a lot less. Haha.

    You have an expertise that is DESPERATELY needed by mom and pop small business owners. Desperately. Reminds me of a gentleman I met on LinkedIn who had 30 years of experience in restaurant profitability and started freelance consulting for mom and pop restaurants… he would do their financial statements (product #1) and then coach them on how to become more profitable (product #2). He could literally pay for himself just by teaching the restaurant owners how NOT to waste alcohol. Pretty amazing.

    I bet you have the same type of expertise, knowledge, and ability. Your blog looks fantastic considering you just started out. Plus you’re a solid communicator (from what I see). How are you enjoying writing so far?

    Thanks again for listening. Feel free to comment / bounce ideas back and forth. Drop me/Gary/us a line anytime you’re excited about something. Or if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments about any roadblocks, etc.

    • Ed Kogan
      Ed Kogan says:

      Do you know of any good, low cost software or templates good for writing a formal Operations Manual?

      Most retailers I worked for have two books in the managers office.

      One a communications book with memo from home office. This is usually a reference of how and why you did a task.

      The other a Policy and Procedures manual. Usually with everything from Dress code to how to wash the floors.

      Your right, until you put it in writing you can’t duplicate and grow your business. Store owners who don’t share their knowledge are doomed to do everything themselves.



      • Mike and Gary
        Mike and Gary says:

        Hey Ed,
        ScreenSteps by Blue Mango Learning is my favorite for creating a process manual style document. It lets you grab screenshots on the fly and incorporate them into the document.

        Once you have the manual, I like Google Sites to create an intranet for the business where the online version of the document is held. You can open and edit the document in Google Docs (now Google Drive) and keep it updated, which is key for creating a manual worth anything in the long run.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the business.  The administration of your business is arguably the most essential piece of your operations manual.  No matter how new or how small you might be, owners that protect themselves in the […]

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